Cornell Capa (1918-2008) was an influential photojournalist, and the younger brother of Robert Capa. He served as the president of Magnum Photos between 1945-1969 and, in 1974, founded New York City’s International Center of Photography.
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Cornell Capa was born Kornél Friedmann in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, on 10 April 1918. In 1936, he moved to Paris, where his brother Endre was working – under the name Robert Capa – as a photojournalist. He worked as his brother’s printer until 1937, then moved to New York to join the new Pix photo agency, changing his name to Cornell Capa. In 1938 he began working in the LIFE darkroom. Soon his first photo essay, on the New York World’s Fair, was published in Picture Post.
Serving in the US Air Force during the Second World War, Capa became an American citizen in 1943. Three years later, he became a staff photographer for LIFE. After his brother’s death in 1954, he joined Magnum and, when David ‘Chim’ Seymour died in Suez in 1956, he took over as president, a post he held until 1960.
Capa made an empathetic, pioneering study of children suffering from mental illness in 1954, and covered other social issues, such as old age in America. He also explored his own Jewish religious tradition. While working for LIFE, Capa made the first of several Latin American trips. These continued through the 1970s and culminated in three books, among them Farewell to Eden (1964), a study of the destruction of indigenous Amazon cultures.
Capa covered the electoral campaigns of John and Robert Kennedy, Adlai Stevenson and Nelson Rockefeller, among others. His 1969 book, New Breed on Wall Street, was a landmark study of a generation of ruthless young entrepreneurs keen on making money and spending it fast. In 1974, Capa founded New York City’s influential International Center of Photography and, as director, dedicated much of his considerable energy to it over many years.
Cornell Capa died in New York City on 23 May 2008.